The vascular clinic at University Medical Center offers a glimpse into the future for those affected by childhood obesity.
People come in wearing orthopedic shoes and missing limbs. Many are seriously ill with end-stage diabetes and spend hours every week in kidney dialysis.
About 95 percent of the clinic's diabetic patients have Type Ii diabetes, says Podiatric surgeon Dr. David G. Armstrong, who directs the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance, works in the clinic with vascular surgeon Dr. Joseph Mills.
"If there were an evil deity trying to figure out the worst possible disease, it would be diabetes. It is a disease that is silent in so many ways," Armstrong says. "It's not like a heart attack, where people drop right away."
Armstrong says the biggest tragedy with the diabetic patients he sees is that so many of the cases are preventable.
The saddest thing about so many of the patients in the clinic is that they don't feel pain the same way the rest of the population does. That means they don't notice when infections are eating their bones, and sometimes the infections become so advance that the limb is lost.
If we could just get people out and active then that could reduce the risk of being diabetic by nearly 60 percent, says Armstrong, who keeps a blog about his work. (It links from the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance web site).
The Arizona Daily Star ran a special report about childhood obesity this week. The problem is a complex one. It is tied to socioeconomics, and government policy on physical education and subsidies to farmers, among other things.